Dr. William W. Lusk, Battalion Beach Doctor, USS Leon APA 48 (Pt. 3)

In this final post featuring Dr. William W. Lusk, we include three additional pictures from the Lusk Collection. We were terrifically excited to receive—and are anxious to share—these pictures which introduce Dr. Lusk’s  corpsmen. We’re saving history one story at a time here!

The first two pictures were taken at the assault on Leyte in the Philippines, beginning October 20, 1944. The sad news is the pictures include only four of the corpsmen. But the good news is that Dr. Lusk identified the corpsmen by name and confirmed the location (Leyte) and approximate date.

Lusk W Corpsmen

Dr. William Lusk and four of his beach medical team

 

My, don’t these five men look proud to be together? In particular, Dr. Lusk appears as proud and close to his young men as an officer could be. (One rarely sees a picture of an officer with his arms around his enlisted men.) That feeling of respect (and more) seems shared by corpsmen Boches, Boyette, Bjork, and Alexander. To us, this has the feeling of a family picture rather than a combat unit.

We also sense a certain professional confidence among these men. They had experienced two assaults by this time. They (and their peers across the Pacific) were why for every 100 navy and marine personnel wounded in WWII, 97 recovered.

The second picture was taken at the same location and with the same five men.

Lusk Corpsmen (2) enhanced

Our impressions from studying these pictures: All of the men are in full combat dress. (Our guess would be these pictures were taken before the team went over the side on D + 2 day at Leyte.) Note the white circles on the helmets and uniform shoulders. The Japanese penchant for shooting medical personnel was by then well-known; white circles were considered a less conspicuous means for identifying medical help.

All are wearing/carrying helmets, Dr. Lusk’s being cloth-covered. All are carrying medical pouches hanging from a thin chest strap. Bjork’s and Alexander’s pouches hang in front on their left hips; all the rest hang in back. Dr. Lusk appears to be carrying two pouches.

Each man wears a web belt from which hang small marine first aid packs, possibly a snake bite kit, and a holster. The thick chest straps carry canteens and a shovel on the back side.

The last photograph is a fabulous picture of the entire beach medical team. We do not know where or when this picture was taken, though we believe it is the earliest photo. Regrettably, the remaining team members aren’t identified.

Based on the two pictures above, we think the men in the back row are (left to right): unknown, unknown, Alexander, Dr. Lusk, Boches, Printy Arthur, unknown.

The front row includes: Boyette and Bjork

 

Battalion Medical Team enhanced

Dr. William Lusk and his beach medical team

 

In a famous speech widely reported after the war’s end, Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal proclaimed:

“The Hospital Corpsmen saved lives on all beaches that the Marines stormed… You corpsmen performed foxhole surgery while shell fragments clipped your clothing, shattered the plasma bottles from which you poured new life into the wounded…”

They were heroes. Ask a marine or soldier.

Now, we have three corpsmen in the back row whom we are unable to identify. We have four other corpsmen for whom we only have last names. If any of those men is your Dad, your uncle, your grandpa, please contact us!

 


Lusk Family Collection

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Dr. William Lusk, Battalion Beach Doctor, USS Leon APA 48 (Pt. 2)

The Leon’s beach party first boarded ship while she was anchored at the Norfolk Naval Yard. The date was March 9, 1944.

The picture below is the only one that I have seen of the entire beach party. This picture was provided by my newfound friend, Mr. Printy Arthur. Printy was a crewman who is alive and well today, living in Sylvania OH. He is one of those youngsters in the third row, a corpsman who would serve in five amphibious assaults as part of Dr. William Lusk’s first aid station on the beach.

(Note: If you recognize any of the men in this picture, we would like to hear from you!)

Leon Beach Party Arthur Pic Edited

Beach Party, USS Leon, June 1944

 

Three months later, the crew of the Leon had finished preparations for her first amphibious assault: Saipan. The beach party had participated in all practice landings conducted with Fourth Marine Division. At 0850 on June 15, 1944, they landed on Blue Beach 2 with the first wave and—like everyone else—dug a fox hole to survive the murderous artillery and mortar fire landing on the beaches.

Fourth Marine Division Unit Bogged Down On A Saipan Beach

Fourth Marine Division bogged down on the beach at Saipan

We don’t know much about the beach team’s experiences on D Day at this assault. Mostly the men who were there didn’t talk about it much. However, the family of Dr. Lusk shared with us several photographs of him on Blue Beach 2.  In the picture below, this small town doctor from Central Illinois seems to have resigned himself to his time in hell, writing across the top: SOME FUN.

Saipan Beach Some Fun enhanced

Dr. William W. Lusk, Battalion Beach Doctor, Saipan, June 1944

 

In the second picture we see him standing amidst a group of marines in the shade on the beach. Don’t we wish we knew what was happening that day!

 

Dr. Lusk At Saipan enhanced

While the beach party had its hands full on land, the Leon was being transformed to a hospital ship. We pick up the story from All Came Home:

“As she anchored in the transport area on D + 1 day and began lowering her boats, the crew soon learned that the Japs had attacked in force throughout the night on the beaches. Boats arrived immediately and throughout the day carrying approximately 200 casualties from the beach and from other ships. They came so rapidly and in such numbers that it was impossible to keep records or do anything but treat the most seriously wounded.

The Leon’s Dental Officer did an excellent job supervising the receiving ward set up in the troop officers’ mess. Ambulatory patients were directed to and treated at the forward battle dressing station. Wards for the serious patients were set up in the chief petty officers’ quarters and in the troop officers’ quarters. The ship’s four doctors labored around the clock, perspiring endlessly, wearing only their shorts, conducting surgery on the dinner tables in the troop officers’ wardrooms.”

D + 2 Day

“The Leon’s hands were happy to receive the ship’s beach party back aboard at 1400 on D plus 2 day. The beach crew had been pinned down by mortar fire and sniper fire on the beach since D-Day. After a minimal rest, the beach party doctor and eight corpsmen turned to, making it possible to run two operating rooms simultaneously.

LST (landing ship tank) 275 pulled alongside at 1222 with more casualties, and the medical team fell further behind.”

Six of the wounded aboard ship died from their wounds. But the Leon’s doctors and corpsmen stayed up day and night, and the remaining 300 survived.


The Lusk Family Collection

All Came Home

 

 

 

 

Dr. William W. Lusk, Battalion Beach Doctor, USS Leon (Pt. 1)

This past Spring I had the good fortune to locate and meet the Lusk family from the Carlinville, IL, area. Their Dad was Dr. William Lusk. Dr. Lusk was a physician who earned his medical degree in 1936 from Rush Medical School in Chicago. He and his wife, La Verne, looked around the Midwest for a community that needed a doctor… and they ended up in Carlinville. Except for time off while he served in WWII, Dr. Lusk became a proverbial country doctor, practicing in Carlinville until his retirement.

I  was thrilled to learn this story, because I knew of Dr. Lusk as a surgeon and a senior medical staff member aboard the attack transport USS Leon APA 48. According to Navy records, that senior medical team included:

  • Dr. Richard L. Pearse, Lieut. Commander, Sr. Medical Officer
  • Dr. Arnold W. Friedman, Lieut. (jg), Jr. Medical Officer
  • Dr. Gerald S. Almond, Lieut., Dental Officer
  • Dr. William W. Lusk, Lieut., Battalion Bach Doctor.

I had learned that Dr. Lusk was the Battalion Beach Doctor on Blue Beach 2 during the amphibious assault at Saipan, June 15, 1944. He and his eight corpsmen treated wounded Marines, sailors, and soldiers at the beach aid station day and night for two and one-half days under unrelenting mortar and artillery fire. He also triaged on the beach, diagnosing the wounded and prioritizing patient transfers to the Leon for advanced care.

One of the men he probably examined and treated on D day was the Leon’s Boat Group Commander, Lt. (jg) Joe McDevitt, my Dad.

Here’s the great news: the Lusk family shared some fabulous pictures with us, including pictures of Dr. Lusk and those young corpsmen who served during five amphibious assaults in the Pacific. We are touching up those pictures now; we can’t wait to show them to you. But the picture below is the one we always ask for first: a portrait in uniform.

This picture was probably taken after Dr. Lusk completed his medical training program with the Navy and was appointed Lieutenant in the U. S. Navy.

Dr_William_Lusk (002) enhanced

Lt. William W. Lusk, Battalion Beach Doctor, USS Leon

Here’s a hero!


Source: Lusk Family Album